Nick Anagnostou on Invisible Leadership in Health and Safety

What does invisible leadership really mean? | Nick Anagnostou (Expert Interview #4)

 

In this interview, we catch up with Nick Anagnostou, VP HSSE of KBR. With Nick, we discuss invisible leadership, and the contrasting role it plays to the role of visible leadership within health and safety. We also look at how to properly implement invisible leadership within an organisation.

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– [Paul] Next up, Mr. Nick Anagnostou, VP of HSSE for KBR. KBR is a global provider of differentiated professional services and technologies across the asset and program life cycle within both government solutions and energy sectors. KBR employs approximately 37,500 people worldwide, including their joint ventures with customers in more than 80 countries and operations in 40 countries across the synergistic global businesses.

We are discussing with Nick, invisible leadership. Every now and then we meet people who claim that what is needed to improve safety is strong and visible safety leadership. I sort of get what they mean with visible leadership, that leaders can be seen doing the right things, but that, rest assured, is confusing. Strong, how strong exactly? Strong in order to do what? What do you mean by “leadership” and what do you mean by “safety,” anyway?

Further exploration of the idea of strong and visible safety leadership normally leads down a predictable route. The usual suspects and expanding on the concept include the standard you walk by is the standard you accept. This message needs to come from the top-down. We need leaders who make it clear to people where the line is in the sand and we need leaders who are ready to have the tough conversations about safety.

So over to now, what does invisible leadership really mean and how do we best implement it to improve safety across the business? I’m going to talk with Nick now about this in-depth. Here we go. Nick, thank you very much for coming to the HSE North America Congress 2019. Pleasure having you.

And thank you for being interviewed for the HSE Network. Actually, what’s really quite refreshing about this interview is the topic. It’s something that we haven’t touched on yet but it keeps coming up in trade. It keeps coming up in business around sort of the invisible leadership net. Every now and then we meet people who sort of claim that what is needed to improve safety is perhaps strong, visible safety leadership.

I sort of get what they mean with visible leadership, that leaders perhaps can be seen doing the right things but the rest is confusing. You know, strong, how strong exactly? You know, strong in order to do what? What do you mean by “leadership” and what do you mean by “safety,” anyway?

So, further exploration of the idea I suppose of strong, visible safety leadership normally leads down a predictable route. The usual suspects and expanding on the concept includes the standard you walk by, the standard you accept, and this message needs to come from the top down.

So we need leaders who make it clear to people where the line is in the sand and we need the leaders who are ready to have the tough conversations about safety. So what does invisible leadership mean and how do we best implement it to improve safety across the business? So, I’ve got three questions for yourself and perhaps, we can touch upon the first being, amongst all the different types of safety initiatives, the culture, the differently leadership, there is invisible leadership.

I mean, how do we best define it and how do you see it benefiting perhaps KBR’s workforce? – [Nick] That’s a great question, Paul. And thanks for having me. It’s been a great congress this year. This is kind of a unique question because you know, the transactional management systems within companies basically focus on the visible leadership.

It’s measurable. You actually physically see it. Some of the invisible leadership attributes, we call them transformational leadership attributes within KBR. And what we try to do is meld the two transactional management systems that we’ve identified.

These are transactional processes that we have within KBR that our leadership have to sponsor, okay? And we can actually measure the engagement in them transactional management systems. But the only people that can truly measure their transformational leadership attributes are the individuals themselves, okay? So we have a method or a coaching method that we use to our leadership to basically ask themselves daily how well did they do within the transformational leadership attributes that we ask them to carry.

So, in my opinion, it’s really about that common statement of, is safety a priority or is it a value? And I truly do believe that the invisible leadership lands right in the personal values of individuals and our leaders.

– I mean, are there any specific, I guess, use cases then that perhaps that can better help other professionals, I suppose, understand invisible leadership in practise perhaps for the viewers?

– You know, I think you know, just going back to what I said, I think the only practise that you have with regards to invisible leadership is to really get people to understand their personal relationship with safety. I think that is truly the only practise that I’ve identified when you’re talking about invisible leadership because we’ve advanced so far with regards to metrics and predictive analytics and measurements associated with engagement and leading indicators that I think hits on all the visible leadership items.

I think the invisible leadership items are really the intrinsically driven values that people have.

– Of course, yeah, 100%. And what would a leadership model a la safety differently look like, I guess? How can leaders engage based on the ideas that maybe people are the solution, that safety is about a capability to create positive outcomes and that safety, I suppose, is an ethical responsibility.

Would you agree?

– No, I think, you know, the first day of this congress, I think, you know, the topic or the statement of safety differently has come up several times. And I think some of the speakers and some of the workshops are focusing on things that I believe are truly things that get us to the next level, which is things like creating a safe environment for people to speak up to.

Because in my opinion, the employees at the lowest level could be the biggest catalyst to the improvement, right? And when you open up that energy or that passion or that knowledge at the employee level, that’s where I think we really energise the safety culture within a company.

– Well, thank you very much, Nick. I can’t thank you enough for, first of all, being an attendee for our North America Congress, but also doing a talk and an interview for HSE Network, which is going to help, you know, senior leaders all over the world roll out their key projects more effectively, and that goes down to the support and the knowledge that you’ve brought to this interview. So, thank you very much for coming.

– Yeah.

– I’m going to see you again soon.

– No problem, thank you.

– Cheers.